Dealing with the Federal Government.
A rule of thumb with federal drug crimes is that if you have been contacted by the FBI then you have been the target of an investigation for at least a year. Drug crimes can be violations of both state and federal law. When the US government is prosecuting a drug case, they will not only use the DEA and FBI to investigate the crime, they can also work with state and local law enforcement agencies to gather evidence of a drug conspiracy. It would not be unusual for the ATF or DPS to aid an ongoing federal investigation. For instance, a simple traffic stop by a state trooper could result in a drug seizure that could be included in a federal investigation.
I am often asked why double jeopardy doesn’t prohibit the federal government for prosecuting the same conduct that would be punishable under state law. It’s a good question. However, because the federal government is a separate and distinct jurisdiction from the state, then defendants can be prosecuted (and punished) under both state and federal law for drug crimes without violating double jeopardy.
Conspiracy is one of the most powerful tools that the US attorney has to prosecute crimes. If you are charged with a drug conspiracy in federal court, this means that you are not only responsible for the drugs you allegedly possessed, but you are also responsible for the drugs that other co-conspirators possessed(even if it is someone you never met). The result can make a defendants guideline range for punishment astronomical. Conspiracy counts usually show up as Count 1 in a federal indictment with multiple co-defendants. It is number one for a reason.
Gun crimes in federal court can complicate even the simplest of drug cases. Many times a drug crime also involves a weapon. Depending on the use of the gun and the status of the defendant, federal law imposes strict prison time minimums that can even be imposed consecutively (stacked) to any time received on the drug charges.
All is not lost if you are facing one or any combination of these charges. Although the federal system can seem more complicated, it’s not. In fact, the thoroughness of a federal drug investigation sometimes presents more opportunities to defend someone from the charges. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines leave little to the imagination of the court or prosecutors such that there are uniform punishment ranges regardless of the court, defendant, or venue. The key to surviving these guidelines is using a lawyer that is highly proficient in using the evidence and the guidelines to your maximum advantage.
Tab Lawhorn is a criminal lawyer and partner at Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, PLLC. He lives in Tyler, Texas with his wife Zoe, his two loving dogs, Noodle and Fathead, and Mancat, his not-so-loving cat. For a decade, he has fought for the rights of those individuals who have been wrongfully accused of federal drug crimes, conspiracy, and federal gun charges. He has founded YOURENOTGUILTY.COM and has been an active donor and community volunteer in East Texas ever since.